How To Accept A Compliment (Because You Deserve It)

how to accept a compliment, accepting praise, compliments, appreciation, self esteem, self confidence, british politeness, this stuff is golden, body dysmorphic disorder, anxiety,

How often are you complimented on something and feel either embarrassed or undeserving? Too often if you are anything like me.

I was out in a cosy bar recently with a good friend of mine. He came back to the table after going to the loos and said that a guy in there had asked if he was with the “blonde” that he was sitting with (me). My friend said no. The guy said “she’s mint”. ‘Mint’ being a kind of slang for something good or attractive (do tell me if I am wrong, I am terrible with slang). At first I thought, well that’s nice I guess, not that I’m interested or anything.

As the night went on, I thought about it more, trying to rationalise it. I said to my friend, “He probably only said that because he’s a bit drunk or something.” My mate said to not be so silly and take the compliment as it is – a compliment!

As somebody that received Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), I know all about why I try to rationalise a compliment.

My therapist told me that as a person with BDD, my thoughts about myself are metaphorically one shape (say, a triangle). If somebody tells me something (in this instance, a compliment), that compliment is a metaphorical ‘square’ shape, making it not fit in with my ‘triangle’ thoughts. So, when I rationalise a compliment (by turning it into something negative), I’m turning it into a ‘triangle’ shape, so that it fits in with my way of thinking. (I hope all that made some sort of sense).

Clearly I still have this way of thinking, though thankfully not to the extent I had it when I was 15.

I’m not sure why it’s part of our culture to be so humble. I get that one shouldn’t be constantly bragging about themselves to anybody that’ll listen – but we should be able to celebrate our successes and accept compliments when they are given to us.

So, if you are like me and try to rationalise a compliment, or even try to return a compliment by giving an even better compliment, let’s vow to stop such nonsense and do the following instead:

Just say “Thank you.” 

That’s all you need to do.

You don’t need to return the compliment (unless of course it’s genuine and you want to). You also don’t need to one-up their compliment – “You’re so pretty!” “But you’re so much prettier!” – none of that. You certainly shouldn’t be overthinking it or trying to turn it into a throwaway comment. Take it as it is, you deserve it!

For a lot of us, there’s something in our minds telling us that we don’t deserve praise, and that the person giving us said compliment is either feeling sorry for us or maybe even lying (flattery gets you everywhere and all that). Though it’ll be a hard thought process to change, try to ignore that inner-voice and own that compliment. Treat it as a small gift for your self-esteem.

To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.
– Oscar Wilde

I would also suggest that you give out compliments more. If you particularly like something about someone then go ahead and say something to them! As long as it’s not fake (or creepy), people love being appreciated for their work or their achievements – a genuine compliment can really make somebody’s day.

19 Comments

  • Em says:

    I’m constantly rejecting compliments, not because I’m modest I’d say – just humble and self critical of myself. But you’re completely right we really should take compliments more, as they’re acts of kindness and we shouldn’t discourage someone’s efforts! Great post lovely! xx

    Em // emilybecca,com

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  • Melissa Tan says:

    Great post! I have a bad habit of rejecting compliments too. My friend told me to just shut up and say thank you.

  • Quinn says:

    I literally got a compliment yesterday (two compliments!) and had this moment of wanting to die of embarrassment because I felt like 1. it was untrue and anyone who heard it must have thought ARE YOU FOR REAL and 2. it was a compliment and I can’t accept a compliment to save my life.

    I once had someone compliment my art, and when I started stumbling over my usual, “No no, God no” this lady just turned to face me and said, “Take the compliment. I’m telling you I think you’re talented. If you reject my compliment you’re basically saying you don’t value my opinion. That’s rude! Just say thank you!”

    I’d never really thought of it like that before.

    Nowadays I try to say thank you, but I still feel that same sense of alarm that people are going to expect me to be better than I am, that people are going to have unrealistic expectations that I won’t live up to, that I’m not deserving, and sometimes that they’re just saying it to be nice.

    I loved this post, because your square-triangle thing makes a lot of sense. I’m going to have to double down on the attempt to just accept compliments and try to clamp down on the panic that comes with them. Thanks!

    • Lauren says:

      “Take the compliment. I’m telling you I think you’re talented. If you reject my compliment you’re basically saying you don’t value my opinion. That’s rude! Just say thank you!” – that’s so brilliant! Definitely something to think about when getting awkward/embarrassed about compliments!
      It’s funny isn’t it, that shape logic. I remember when I first went to therapy for the BDD, and was so utterly shocked that there was something actually wrong with me, that I had a disorder – I thought everybody felt the same way I did. Then the shape logic was explained and it made a lot of sense to me!
      So glad you liked the post!

  • Kate says:

    This article resonates with myself so much. I’m currently struggling with a particularly bad bout of anxiety so am constantly filled with self doubt. For the past few months, especially, if someone has given me a compliment I feel as though they’re only doing it as they feel sorry for what I’m going through and it’s not what they really think.
    I really need to stop this way of thinking and take the compliment as how it’s meant, that actually although I can’t see any positives about myself I do have them and take it as a small win for the day.
    Thank you x

    • Lauren says:

      Yes exactly – I’m having a few ‘down days’ myself, and am constantly trying to remind myself of my good qualities, rather than focus on what I consider my failures.
      Hope this post helped/helps you 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    I relate to this so well. I don’t suffer from BDD but I do struggle to accept compliments about the way I look, particularly from members of the opposite sex. I don’t particularly dislike myself when I look in the mirror, but I struggle when people tell me I look nice, I think it’s probably a combination of a childhood being told how much I look like my dad, and growing up as one of the boys.

    I’m also bad at accepting compliments in a work setting, I once was nominated for an internal prize and really couldn’t understand why when I was just doing my job, I didn’t feel like I’d done anything to deserve it.

    I’m going to try and remember this post in the future.

    • Lauren says:

      I’m beginning to realise how much this post resonates with people. I hope that in the future you can celebrate your successes (like the award) and recognise that you’re a beautiful person!
      Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  • Irene says:

    Great post! I also blogged about something similar recently. We really do need to start passing out compliments more and not overthink when we receive them (Lord knows I am one who rarely trusts a compliment!-I’ve been trying to work on that LOL)
    Cheers!

    • Lauren says:

      Exactly! Sometimes I see strangers and love what they are wearing/their hair etc. and I am so tempted to say something but I always shy away!

  • lovely post really helpful

  • Wadz says:

    I relate to this post so much. Every time someone compliments me, I think ‘omg does this person know what they’re saying?’ But I’m slowly evolving to just take the compliments and as you said, say ‘thank you.’ Lovely post 🙂

  • Wow! As someone who never accepts compliments well, I need to remember this! Thank you for sharing.

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